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Monday, Sept. 23, 2019

Another Boost For Shreveport Common

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Developments continue as Andress Garage changes hands

Some uncommon things are taking shape in Shreveport Common. While progress continues on a distillery/restaurant/speakeasy complex in the former Arlington Hotel, another new concept is being birthed from the old Andress Garage at the corner of Crockett and Common streets.

Entrepreneur Jim Malsch recently purchased the building, located at 717 Crockett St., and is developing the property in line with the Shreveport Common Inc. Vision Plan. He expects to break ground in early 2020 on the Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center.

Malsch calls the concept for the building “Cohab on steroids.” And Malsch should know. He served as the chairman of the board at Cohab for five years. Malsch is working closely with Shreveport Common to design and execute the vision for the building.

“I’ve always been interested in the building,” Malsch said. “The gentleman who owns the Fairmont Apartments owned it, and he wasn’t going to sell it to anybody but Shreveport Common.”

The Shreveport Common board and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council relished the invitation. They invited potential partners to present their visions for the building in a “Shark Tank”-style competition. Malsch’s idea was selected from those submissions.

“It was such an honor to have the previous owner sell the Andress Garage to Shreveport Common,” Executive Director Wendy Benscoter said. “He believed in Shreveport Common because he had seen the changes taking place. It was imperative to him that the building is developed to the promise of the Vision Plan. So when Jim Malsch submitted the perfect plan for the Andress, we were thrilled. Jim brings his excitement and commitment, and a wealth of experience to create the spaces that artists and entrepreneurs want and need.”

The plans for the two-story building include an art gallery and artist studios on the first floor and commercial office space on the second floor, with a large common area in the middle designed for collaboration. Malsch called it “the next venture for those who love the collaborative spirit that Cohab offers, but they need to have their own office.

“From the very get-go, this has embodied all that we hoped Shreveport Common would be,” said Pam Atchison, executive director for SRAC. “A collaborative community that has a great deal of interdependence on one other. You have friends once you get here. You’re not a stranger.”

Atchison said Malsch’s presentation  showed that he understood how the building also fits into the broader mission of Shreveport Common.

“Jim heard us loud and clear, that we hoped creativity would permeate the process,” she said. “He really is a model Shreveport Commoner, an uncommon commoner.”

Shreveport Common is a non-profit organization that is committed to the arts and a city-led, public-private partnership to revitalize a nine-block area of downtown Shreveport. Benscoter said that the Andress Artist and Entrepreneur Center project fully embraces the Shreveport Common Vision Plan for the area.

“(It) is a Creative Placemaking plan that puts endangered buildings back into commerce with spaces that artists and creative professionals want and need,” she said. “In addition to the planned studios, workspace and offices, Jim has planned a gallery and outdoor space that will create fun ways for the community to intersect with artists during events, or just to stop by to see what’s new. All of these elements are part of the Vision Plan for affordable and market-value spaces that are respectful to the historic architecture of the building, uniquely creative, economically and environmentally sustainable and are for the community.”

Like Malsch, architect Jeff Spikes has been interested in the building for a long time. After making a few attempts to purchase the building himself, he is excited to work on the renovation with his friend.

“My office was housed in Fairmont for a couple years,” Spikes said. “My wife had a photography business for a while. She took pictures of our little girl when she was an infant in that building. It was this really pristine outfit and this chaos of a dilapidated building. So I had a connection to that building, and I even made a run at myself a few times. I think it needs some love and to be brought back into service.

“It was funny when (Malsch) mentioned that he was looking at it. I told him my history with the building, and it just seemed like we clicked on something. He said it would be cool to work together and bring out the soul in a beautiful old building.”

The previous owner, Mike Alexander of New Market Investors, said he is eager to see Shreveport Common’s plans for the building to unfold.

“Wow, it’s so great to see this project headed for construction start,” Alexander said. “NMI has been a hard-working partner in the Shreveport downtown for nearly 15 years, and our residents and employees couldn’t be more excited to encourage and participate in the positive changes that are occurring in our neighborhood.”


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